The Soft Pack “The Muslims”
Because some people actually still listen to rock, I present to you, The Soft Pack. The Soft Pack’s straight and simple garage rock is a breath of fresh air in our age of heavy-handed art rock and too-clever-for-its-own good synth pop. Is it possible that the classic formula of guys plus guitars still works? Can I really enjoy music that doesn’t involve impenetrable layers of unidentifiable found sounds (Was that a sousaphone or a squeaky door?), a synth line that sounds plucked from a vintage NES video game, or a clever mash-up of three or more music blog darlings? Channeling Velvet Underground, The Kinks and The Strokes, The Soft Pack proves that simple is good.
1) Kid Cudi ft. Ratatat and MGMT “Pursuit of Happiness”
Collaborating with Ratatat and MGMT is not only a surefire way to create a sick dance track, it’s also the quickest way to build buzz in the blogosphere for your sophomore album. As of September 15, you can buy “Man on the Moon: the End of Day” for $3.99 on Kid Cudi’s MySpace.
2) Crystal Castles “Vanished”
It’s only fitting that my new favorite frontwoman Alice Glass (sorry Karen O, there’s a new Crazy in town) record my new favorite dance song.
3) The XX “Basic Space”
If you like your music brimming with more ennui than a Calvin Klein perfume ad, then you may want to build a time machine and go back to the heyday of The Smiths. Or you can just start to listening to The XX. Either way…
Album recommendation: Jay-Z The Blueprint 3
Oh shit, as soon as the first millisecond of track one “What We Talkin About” hit my ear, I knew Jay-Z’s forthcoming Blueprint 3 was — to use a word that sounds just plain foolish when uttered by a white girl such as myself — ILL. Hov’s eleventh studio album features throwback soul grooves (think the American Gangster soundtrack, only better) and appearances by Young Jeezy, Swizz Beatz and Kid Cudi. The album drops — again, I acknowledge that my use of ebonics (Is that still a p.c term?) sounds as clumsy as a drunk white girl trying to drop it like it’s hot looks (And let’s be honest, I’ve done my fair share of drunken dropping it like it’s hot, so I know.) — September 11, but you can listen to it now via MTV.com.
Songs recommendations: I’ve racked the interwebs and my mind and, having failed to come up with any material more eligible at the moment, I’ve decided to give my three favorite tracks (based on preliminary listenings) off The Blueprint 3.
1. Jay-Z “Thank You”
This song makes me want to roll around town in some kind of luxury car, smoke cigars and do other gangster stuff.
2. Jay-Z feat. Swizz Beatz “On to the Next One”
I wish I had the initiative and lack of dignity to submit a video of me bobbing my head around to this song, because that would pretty eloquently sum up my feelings about it. But I don’t. Hopefully you get the idea anyways.
3. A toss-up between Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys “Empire State of Mind,” Jay-Z feat. Young Jeezy “Real As It Gets” and Jay-Z feat. Kid Cudi “Already Home”
I mean, seriously, every track is good.
Album recommendation: Casiokids Fuck MIDI
My friend recently told me about Casiokids, and now I’m hooked. Leave it to a troop of freaky Norwegians to create some outlandishly funky electro beats. I’ve read reviews comparing them to Fela Kuti, Paul Simon and New Order, and it’s my personal belief that whoever drew these comparisons must have done a fair amount of huffing in his/her lifetime. Casiokids sound like nothing else.
- M. Ward “Rave On” A talented multi-instrumentalist songwriter, short in stature with dark squirrely eyes and a private nature (he forbids photography at his live performances), M. Ward reminds one of a young Bob Dylan. On the aptly named 2009 release Hold Time, Ward demonstrates his knack for timeless folk, country and rock music. This cover of Buddy Holly’s “Rave On” never fails to make me feel all happy and excited about life.
- Volcano Choir “Island Is” If like me, it is impossible for you to listen to Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago without a tidal wave of depression and loneliness crashing down up on you, then you may be excited to hear that Justin Vernon has partnered with instrumental rock act Collections of Colonies of Bees for a project called Volcano Choir, which (at least on the first track “Island Is”) won’t make you feel like a) closing the curtains, lighting candles and drinking a bottle of red wine/whiskey to your face b) breaking down and calling your ex in tears c) slitting your wrists d) all of the above. Yay!
- Them Crooked Vultures “Nobody Loves Me and Neither Do I” Totally stealing The Dead Weather’s thunder, Them Crooked Vultures has emerged as the Most Likely to Make You Wet Your Pants supergroup in recent years. The unbelievable trio of Dave Grohl, Josh Homme and John Paul Jones performed its debut show at Metro in Chicago the Sunday of Lollapalooza. I don’t know whether to be overjoyed by the existence of this supergroup-on-steroids, or to cry bitterly that I missed the inaugural performance. If anyone out there can find a legit mp3 or video (aka that lasts longer than 33 seconds), please post it up on QS. http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=491766979&blogId=506329306
Album recommendation: Lake “Let’s Build a Roof”
Perhaps the most revealing fact about Lake is that they used to perform as a Fleetwood Mac cover band. The Olympia, Washington sixtet may have moved on to write and record its own original music, but that 70s AM gold sound lingers on. On sophomore album Let’s Build a Roof, Van Morrison horns boogie, Steely Dan keyboards groove and, yes, Fleetwood Mac lyrics tell stories laced with fear and heartbreak.
Music site recommendation: www.stereogum.com
Everyone knows Pitchfork. Only the truly savvy know Stereogum. Since 2002, the blog/web community has offered indie and alternative music news and downloads, won some awards and held court as the under-underground online music source.
- Radiohead (?) “These Are My Twisted Words” It hasn’t actually been confirmed that this song, posted without explanation on Radiohead’s fan site At Ease, is a new Radiohead song, but I’m all too happy to hastily jump on the unsubstantiated buzz train. In other news, Thom Yorke recently revealed in an interview with The Believer that it could be a while before a new Radiohead album… http://pitchfork.com/news/36205-is-this-a-new-radiohead-song/
- Santigold feat. Jay-Z “Brooklyn Go Hard” Walther disdains Santigold as “M.I.A. lite.” Maybe this Brooklyn banger with Hov will change his mind. If not, it’s his loss: Santigold was one of the more fun and pleasantly surprising sets I saw at Lollapalooza this weekend. http://www.myspace.com/santigold
- Animal Collective “Fireworks” I attended Animal Collective’s Saturday set at Lollapalooza with my friend Shannon, who complained of not “getting” the noise pop trio. I advised her to just keep listening, eventually she’d have a breakthrough. Lo and behold, Animal Collective then broke into “Fireworks,” the song that initiated my love and appreciation for the band. http://www.last.fm/music/Animal+Collective/_/Fireworks
Album recommendation: A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s “Ashes Grammar”
It’s a fine line between psychedelia and spiritualism, but A Sunny Day in Glasgow walks it confidently. The Philadelphia foursome uses spaced out angel harmonies and underwater synth loops to create a sound that simultaneously invokes drug-induced euphoria and religious epiphany. Their sophomore effort Ashes Grammar blends ambient, lounge, electronica, shoegaze and gospel in one big dreamy watercolor of an album.
Music site recommendation: boykings.com
Chicago-based Boy Kings provide “fresh” and irreverent commentary on the hottest and latest music as well as pop culture at large. Recently, the guys have interviewed Passion Pit, Hey Champ! and The Hood Internet and reviewed new music from Mos Def and Daft Punk. They also provide useful info on the hippest places to see music and hang out in Chicago.
- Phoenix “If I Ever Feel Better” With the release of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix earlier this year, pop/rock band Phoenix may have surpassed fellow frogs Daft Punk in the size of their American cult following. Does anyone else remember/love this Phoenix song from way back in 2000? It is so infectious. And while we’re on the topic of vintage Phoenix, does anyone else remember the Phoenix song “Too Young” featured on the Lost in Translation soundtrack? http://www.imeem.com/artists/phoenix/music/IbVnCbXy/phoenix-if-i-ever-feel-better/
- Daft Punk “Tron Legacy Theme” If Phoenix has in fact usurped Daft Punk’s throne as hottest French import, it’s likely to be a brief reign. It was recently announced that Daft Punk will compose the entire soundtrack to Disney’s remake of 80s classic Tron, thus winning over hipsters, dancers, nerds, and Jeff Bridges fans alike. http://wearehunted.com/#tron-legacy-theme-daft-punk 3.. Flaming Lips “Silver Trembling Hands” Reviewing a song by the Flaming Lips feels a little like hubris, leaving me at a loss for a pithy description that will do justice to the band or this song. So let’s keep it simple: just listen to this song. And when Embryonic comes out this fall, listen to that too. http://www.myspace.com/flaminglips
Recommended site: www.performermag.com
Billing itself as The Musician’s Resource, Performer Magazine covers bands Pitchfork hasn’t even heard of yet as well as reviews musical equipment and gear. If you’re a musician, or just a wannabe, check out the site, or pick up a copy at your nearest instrument retailer or music venue.
Recommended album: Deerhunter’s Microcastle
Microcastle was pretty much the soundtrack of late winter ‘09 for me. Moody, sometimes monotonous, and occasionally pierced by an ephemeral ray of sunlight, it provided the perfect listening material for January-March in Chicago, World Capital of Depressing Weather. Turns out Microcastle suits summer, too. I just popped it in for a driving trip this week and was blown away while rediscovering the fragile desperation on “Cover Me;” the pop-leaning danceability on “Never Stop;” the slow, spaced-out build and briefly triumphant finish on “Microcastle;” and the epic (well, for an indie band) composition and perfect encapsulation of the simultaneous excitement and malcontented-ness of youth on “Nothing Ever Happened.” I haven’t yet delved into Deerhunter’s other albums, but would be very pleasantly surprised if any of them top Microcastle.
- Wavves “Beach Demon” You gotta love a lo-fi (no-fi?) duo whose guitarist/lead singer basically blows a shot at world fame (or at the very least, free travel) by consuming a cocktail of Valium, Xanax and Ecstasy before performing at Barcelona’s Primavera Sound Festival. Nathan Williams’ now infamous meltdown in Spain forced him and drummer Ryan Ulsh to abandon the stage and their entire European tour. If you like your rock noisy, volatile and reckless, check out Wavves. ttp://www.myspace.com/wavves
- The Pains of Being Pure at Heart “Stay Alive” Current media darlings, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart are frequently compared to My Bloody Valentine. Am I the only one who thinks they sound like New Order? All comparisons aside, Pains of Being Pure at Heart offer a brand of dream pop that’s entirely original. http://www.myspace.com/thepainsofbeingpureatheart
- Lindstrom “The Magnificent” At Pitchfork Music Fest, Lindstrom actually got the audience to dance. That’s right, a crowd of too-cool-to-care, shoe-gazing hipsters put down their PBRs and Parliaments and moved their bodies in time with music. Of course, the proof is in the groovy pudding: next time you invite your friends over, put on some Lindstrom and see what happens. http://www.myspace.com/feedelity
I hope you’re aware of (by Walther):
- Hot Chip: pop electronic at it’s finest. Extremely talented.
- Ratatat: wordless electro-rock. Deadly melodic. A great soundtrack for exciting moments.
- Crystal Castles: hipster freakout dance classic. Impossible not to shake it out with this.
- Amadou & Mariam: progressive folk-rock from Mali. This couple is an institution. Definitive.
- The Wire. If you haven’t watched it – all of it – you can’t be cultured. It’s modern Shakespeare.
Recommended album Pterodactyl “Worldwild”
The sophomore album from Brooklyn band Pterodactyl, “Worldwild” layers muddy guitar effects and largely unintelligible vocals on shot-from-a-canon drumming. The result feels like riding backseat in a pickup truck steered by a drunk driver through a minefield. There are a few moments of quiet reflection – as in “Easy Pieces“ and “Alex” when a shamisen-sounding guitar and hypnotic vocals conjure images of a tranquil koi pond, or on the musical palate cleanser “Ghost Facts” – but the overall tone is raw, unbridled noise rock. Close your eyes and hang on for dear life.
Recommended music site: festivalcrashers.com
Simultaneously irreverent and informative, festivalcrashers.com puts you in the center of the biggest and best music fests – Rothbury, SXSW, NO Jazz Fest and PItchfork to name a few – even if your twenty-something salary has left you stuck at home on your futon, isolated save for a high speed internet connection. Fellow twenty-somethings and seasoned festival crashers Andy Shore and Zack Teibloom understand how hard life can be when you’re just scraping by. That’s why they’ve mastered the art of the festival crash and share their experiences as well as a few tips online.
- Atlas Sound f. Noah Lennox “Walkabout” The first track off Atlas Sound’s forthcoming Logos is like pure downloadable sunshine. The influence of Noah Lennox, aka Animal Collective’s Panda Bear, whose Person Pitch and Endless Summer homage Young Prayer sound like 60s musical time capsules, is about as obvious as the inevitable happy ending in a Kate Hudson vehicle. But hey, we could all use a little peace and love right about now. http://www.prefixmag.com/media/atlas-sound/walkabout-feat-panda-bear-streaming/30872/
- Javelin “Vibrationz” Just when I thought I was the only person who longed for the 90s, Brooklyn duo Javelin comes out with “Jamz n Jemz,” an album full of carefree, ultra-simple dance tracks that would have provided fresh beats for Will Smith back when he was still with Jazzy Jeff. Check out “Vibrationz.” It’s ill. http://www.myspace.com/hotjamzofjavelin
- Grand Ole Party “Look Out Young Son” All you need to know about this San Diego band is that it features a female lead singer-cum-drummer. Sweetness. http://www.myspace.com/grandoleparty
I hope you’re aware of (by Walther):
- Grizzly Bear’s new album Veckatimest
- An Indie complication album entitled Dark was the Night
- The band Deerhunter
- If you like progressive house music Gui Boratto
- The documentary about The Gorillaz entitled ‘Bananaz’Musi
- Vega “No Reasons” Austin’s Vega, aka Alan Palomo, blends funk, disco and house for a pretty intoxicating synth-heavy electro cocktail. Basically, it’s good to dance to. http://www.myspace.com/vegavisions
- Neon Indian “Terminally Chill” No wonder I’m feeling this electro song – Terminally Chill is the second project of Alan Palomo, aka Vega. If you dig it too, check out “Deadbeat Summer,” also by Neon Indian. http://www.myspace.com/neonindian
- Generationals “When They Fight, They Fight” Mark Ronson eat your heart out: New Orleans-based Generationals are near flawless in their 60s pop/soul time capsule “When They Fight, They Fight.” http://www.myspace.com/generationals
Slightly Used (Walther)
- Down Boy by The Yeah Yeah Yeahs Teeth grinding anticipation of the lead singer Karen O’s growl makes it difficult not to punk-dance the fuck out of this song, making the track’s title all the more relevant. I need to relax. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e92TyG8gPpw
- House Jam by Gang Gang Dance When I discovered this band earlier this year I almost thew up: they’ve been performing for over 5 years all over NYC. Where have I been? Their tracks are hot: enough pop to make the Middle Eastern/Africa influence go down easy; enough beat to keep you moving while the electronics take your mind elsewhere and enough experimental sounds to keep you wondering what’s gonna happen next. http://www.myspace.com/ganggangdance
Merrill Garbus, aka tUnE-yArDs wrote her debut album BiRd-BrAiNs with just a ukelele, a few bottles and random found sounds, and a background in puppetry. She recorded it using only a Sony digital recorder and laptop with free Audacity software. The resulting album, produced entirely from free media, is experimental, but utterly listenable. Songs like “Sunlight,” “Hatari,” “Jamaican” and my personal favorite “News,” which conjures images of a gaggle of village women rhythmically pounding meat for dinner and then breaking into a jubilant MGM musical-style song and dance, will have you humming, tapping and yodeling along your commute to work. The other passengers on the subway would complain if you didn’t look so darn happy.
Test the music out: http://www.myspace.com/tuneyards
Get the record: http://www.marriagerecs.com/shop2/744/tune-yards/#BiRd-BrAiNs
For the sake of conveying just how awesome WeAreHunted.com is, I will openly admit that some of the songs selected for the playlist were stolen directly from the site. We Are Hunted aggregates social networks, P2P networks, music forums and blogs to compile a chart of the most popular songs in the blogosphere based on sentiment, expression and advocacy rather than a mere download count. It’s a smart and highly addictive tool to discover new music, not to mention the easiest way to out-hip your friends.